Grocery stores are incorporating farmers market-like shelves into produce departments, offering shoppers locally grown fruits and vegetables. Kraft Foods is reinventing itself as a health brand, with   Consumers are shifting away from white starchy breakfast foods toward beans and greens. These are a few of the food-meets-health trends from the past quarter that reflect how American health citizens are incorporating new food habits into overall health behaviors.

Let’s begin with the October 11, 2012, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, which focuses on obesity, food, and health policy. Along with an excellent overview of Obama v. Romney on health reform, you’ll find several peer-reviewed articles on sugary sodas, portion sizes and heart disease. My favorite of the lot is Candy at the Cash Register, which culls data on the relationship between where sugary food is merchandised at the grocer or convenience store, and BMI in the neighborhood. This research documents the relationship of food marketing and health. At the point-of-purchase, those colorful lip-smackin’ graphics on the Baby Ruth, M&Ms, Life Savers, and chocolate bar packages speak spontaneous motivational volumes to consumers, loosening up wallets for that just-in-time sugary snack.

CNBC covered the growing trend of supermarkets expanding fresh food aisles to compete, or coopt, the locavore and farmers’ markets phenomenon. Whole Foods Market has grown up on this, but Wegmans, the northeastern US food chain of 80 stores, has an explicit mission to provide local, healthy food for “everyday families.”

Packaged Facts published The New Healthful Culinary Trend Mapping Report, finding that consumers are shifting bread eating habits toward whole grains and artisanal loaves, beans and greens for breakfast, healthful vending machines in schools and workplaces, more vegan choices on restaurant menus, chef-inspired kid faire, and a renaissance of veggie burgers.

In the New Product Pacesetters report, market research firm SymphonyIRI finds that Kraft Foods is pivoting toward healthier foods, such as the MiO drink mix and Newtons Fruit Thins. The water enhancer category, the company says, is growing across many food companies.

On the consumer demand side, people are buying more diet drinks, up for both women and men since 2000. At the same time, the consumption of sugar in regular soda fell from about 150 calories a day in 2000 to 91 calories a day in 2008, according to the CDC.

Unfortunately, the rate of obesity in the U.S. grew over the decade 2000 to 2010, but may be leveling off, the CDC believes.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  The photo pictures four lovely eggplants I picked up at the Kimberton (PA) CSA on Friday 10/12/12. The CSA is Chez Kahn’s local organic Community Supported Agriculture farm that we belong to. We value our relationship with the farm and its hardworking farmers, who not only follow strict organic protocols but also treat the land with various homeopathic techniques Eric, our lead farmer, has learned working cooperatively with other CSAs around the world.

When it comes to health and food, it really does take a Village. The food system is a complicated one, not unlike the health system. The food chain is shaped by public policy, the supply side, industrial interests, tax policy, and consumer demand which is heavily influenced by mass media and entertainment, along with targeted, clever and artful marketing and packaging.

The health system — physicians, hospitals, clinics and other providers — is at a disadvantage when faced with these external Food factors. It is encouraging to see local grocers and national and regional chains, like Walmart, Safeway, Walgreens and Wegmans, go healthy. These retail food entities are an integral and growing part of the retail health segment and larger health ecosystem.

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